Back in May, I got a message from my friend Yixiao about coming to play in Chengdu and Chongqing with XI’ER, the predecessor punk band to electronic witch-synth trio South Acid MiMi.
When I first met Yixiao, Shishi and Weilin in 2015, I’d already been indoctrinated into the cult of South Acid Mimi, having experienced their intoxicated psychedelic dance masquerade at Kunming dive bar earlier that year. As one of the weirdest shows I’d seen so far in China, I was ecstatic when they agreed to play support for the mothership of acid freakery, Orchestra of Spheres during their China Tour.
我在2015年认识一笑、施施和魏琳，那年1月在昆明如痴如醉地体验了一次她们的迷幻化妆舞会，可以说已经成为了南方酸性咪咪的狂热追捧分子。那是我在中国看过最怪异的演出之一，当她们表示乐意为星迹乐团(Orchestra of Spheres)的中国巡演昆明站做嘉宾的时候，我简直欣喜若狂。
Upon meeting them in Kunming, it was immediately clear they were super badass. Arms covered with tattoos, they led us to their hangout in downtown Kunming – a bright yellow studio full of retro furniture, glitter, toy figurines and kooky decorations. Bowie and Sonic Youth adorned the walls. Paper umbrellas hung upside down from the ceiling. A MicroBrute synth sat next to a vintage telephone.
Meizijiu, cigarettes and conversation flowed freely. Incredibly lovely, generous and talented, everything about them was so different to the world outside – a bizarre amalgam of kitsch and kawaii, hard-edge and soft core, addiction and adolescence, juxtaposition and excess…
XI’ER is where it all started. Flashback ten years ago to an open mic night in Kunming: 16-year-old guitarist Shishi met Weilin, a girl who could sink liquor and scream like Karen O and Yang Yang, a long haired hottie who played the drums in high heels. They rented a practice space and kitted it out with pink lights, plastic beads, plush toys and homemade microphone racks, soon scoring gigs at local bars and music festivals. Shishi and Yixiao eventually dropped out of high school, Yang Yang moved to Dali, Weilin went back to Nujiang, and Xi’er was disbanded.
Later, they went on to form South Acid Mimi, a psychedelic electronic dance trio who have since been covered by VICE and i-D. Using a reverb soaked vocal harmonies, a laptop and keyboards, the band uploaded a bunch of tracks to Douban and have since performed in most major cities across the country, including large music festivals and underground parties. South Acid Mimi are in the mixing stage of releasing their highly anticipated debut record with Beijing based label Ruby Eyes.
Back in 2015, with nothing else better to do, they reformed the band XI’ER. With the original bassist in Shanghai, Xiaohei has joined as the only male band member, despite not knowing how to play bass. Since Weilin moved to Beijing, Yixiao took up lead vocals.
XI’ER aren’t interested in punk clichés or traditional understandings of the genre. Their music sounds as likely to take queues from The Stooges as it is from rockabilly or synth pop. Much like South Acid Mimi, XI’ER experiment by fusing influences from punk and electronica – synth noise emerges alongside oddball guitar riffs and pounding drum lines, while the vocals are full of grit and attitude, equal parts aggression and sensuality.
Always moving to their own beat, XI’ER tear down conventions and mix them into a highly potent cocktail – the kind your friend makes for you that has waaaay too much rum in it. Always down to party, XI’ER have been busy touring the southern provinces and are set to bring the ruckus to Chengdu and Chongqing this weekend.
A year has gone by so fast, the October National Holiday break is soon upon us and NUART Festival has rolled round again! Good times – here’s the run down…
Chengdu’s free arts and music street festival on Kuixinglou Street is into it’s third year now, with no signs of slowing down. As in previous years, the multi-genre Main Stage will keep things pumping from afternoon till night outside Mintown, featuring some of Chengdu’s favourite acts Wednesday’s Trip, Zhang Xiaobing,Jahwahzoo and CDC, as well as imports from around the country including ChaCha (Shanghai), Chinese Football (Wuhan), WHAI (Beijing) and South Acid MiMi (Kunming).
One of this year’s most exciting addition is NU SPACE, our new venue that has opened out the back of Mintown which will be housing live sets from some of China’s most exciting producers iimmune, Hu Yang and Sulumi and the debut of the audiovisual collaboration 3000.
Kiwese is pleased to announce UMU and Microsoft Voices from Wellington will be performing with prepared turntables and projectors on Day 1, following last year’s Orchestra of Spheres debut on the Main Stage! Yeah!
Day 1 on the Main Stage sees things kick off with indie-pop songsters Wanmei Daoli, Chengdu shoegaze trio Sound and Fury and the good vibes of Tuvan folk tunes of Taiga from Xinjiang. My personal favourites, electro punk witches South Acid MiMi are coming up from Kunming to play Chengdu for the first time! Local hip hop stars CDC will bring all the 迷妹 out to close the night with their trap flavoured, acid tongued Sichuanhua rap.
Main Stage visuals will be run by Morning 早上好 resident Cha Fei 叉飞, so expect some trippy shit.
“We are Micro Soft Voices. We are Kathy, Vicky, Alex and Bruce. We are Apple Core. We are hash busting keyboard fanatics. We are laptop punk.” You do not wanna miss this set, the side project of Baba Rossa and Mos Iocos from Orchestra of Spheres!
Shanshui Records laoban Sulumi returns to Chengdu to perform a live set of his inimitable techno/glitch/8-bit production.
Shake off that hangover and get down for Day 2! Fake Swing (former and current members of The Hormones) will charm the street with their acoustic indie pop in the afternoon, before Biggaton and Blood Dunza “run it!” and get things skankin’ with Jamaican reggaeton MC magic. Charlie Tango from France are sure to please with their uptempo indie rock stylings, while Wuhan’s math rock darlings Chinese Football are one’s to look forward to, returning to Chengdu for the first time since their album release tour. Last but certainly not least, the Queen of underground Shanghai hip-hop ChaCha will get her groove on with DJ Aivilox from the Shelter on the decks! Parrrrrtay!
Day 2 in NU SPACE sees live techno from Beijing-based iimmune (Prajnasonic) and Hu Yang (Be Sure) with visuals by VJ Mian. YESYESYESOHYES.
Reggae big band Jahwahzoo b2b Zhang Xiaobing and Friends will no doubt see Day 3 off to a very green beginning. Chengdu’s legendary Wednesday’s Trip 星期三旅行 bring out the bass with their synth-saturated trip-hop, fronted by vocalist Wu Zhuoling. Starcardigan from Vladivostok return to NU for a follow up to their last show at NU SPACE, bringing their energetic electro-pop to the street!
Closing the Main Stage for 2016 is Beijing experimental rock band WHAI. I saw them play a couple of years ago at Yugong Yishan in Beijing, donning dark sunglasses, they were concealed by a thin transparent sheet while shouting “FUCK” repeatedly over droning guitar noise. Intrigued to see how this will go down on the street.
Faded Ghost a.k.a. ChaCha will spin a back to back vinyl set with Shanghai sister Aivilox in the afternoon.
To close the festival, NU SPACE will transform for the debut of 3000, a collaboration between bass music producers Cvalda and Jason Hou and lighting designers Li Kun and Miao Jing based on the concepts of space, sound and light. “要你命3000”。Not to be missed.
This year, the Street Party has been extended to two zones, one featuring local labels atmen and Disco Death with custom lighting installation by PLGRM, the other a vinyl stage run by Chengdu’s resident street DJ Marco Duits. Perhaps the only time of year the Qingyang District ayis forgo their own 8pm dancing session to get down with the ravers!
So what are you doing this National Holiday?
NUART FESTIVAL 2016
1 - 3 October
3pm - 10:30pm
NU Crossover Art
NU Street Party
NU Market Stalls
地址：成都市青羊区奎星楼街55号 ADD: Kuixinglou Street, Qingyang, Chengdu, Sichuan, China
Erica Sklenars a.k.a. Lady Lazer Light is in the capital this week for two talks about her art residency in Beijing and touring with Orchestra of Spheres around China.
Kiwese caught up with her ahead of tonight’s first talk!
The last Lady Lazer Light show I saw before moving back to China was in collaboration with long time pals Orchestra of Spheres.
It was a cheap $10 gig at Valhalla – a grungy, hole in the wall on Vivian Street downtown Wellington, which having survived several different eras of management had remained popular among the metal, bogan and experimental community for it’s diverse billing, excellent beer selection and outdoor area provisioned with old car tyres and miscellaneous lounge furniture.
It was mid-2014, a rough time for Wellington music punters with the closures of popular inner city venues Mighty Mighty and Puppies. San Francisco Bath House had been renovated into ‘San Fran’ – a yuppie, tapas-catering ghost of it’s former self that had halved it’s capacity due to safety concerns – the packed out balcony and wall-to-wall mosh pit had become a thing of the past. The city was thirsty for a good show.
The Valhalla line-up included some of Wellington’s favourite acts, who were not greatly affected by the venue closures as they were accustomed to playing in unconventional spaces around town. Throat-ripping turntable noise trio the All Seeing Hand had arrived home from their national tour and were supported by their good mates Orchestra of Spheres, experimental folk yodeller Seth Frightening, andvisually enhanced by the Queen of Psychedelic Projections Herself, Lady Lazer Light. The stage was a whirlpool of colour and sound and the bar was packed with familiar faces, with Valhalla regulars happily drinking alongside the refugees of less fortunate venues.
In the second set of the night, the Spheres took the stage in inimitable style – festooned with the finest eyewear The $2 Shop can buy, armed with one-of-a-kind wooden and tin instruments and oozing with the bizarre stage presence that has earned them a cult following throughout the country. The crowd surged forward, ready for the cosmic rhythms.
As Lady Lazer Light sprayed forth her kaleidoscopic beams and the Spheres chanted a mantra about iPhone chargers, the sensorily satiated crowd swayed shoulder to shoulder as one, united by a brilliant display of colour and sound. If the desired effect was group hypnosis – they certainly succeeded.
The show was a spiritual experience for the city – the buzz around Valhalla, the friendliness and happiness of all the people who had come to celebrate and support, it was a truly magical night. Orchestra of Spheres and Lady Lazer Light were the gems in Wellington’s creative crown, and we all bowed down in ecstasy.
Around the middle of last year, things really started to fall into place. I was emailing Dan from the Spheres on an almost daily basis and we were gradually putting together the pieces for a national China tour. The dream was coming to life, everyone was excited.
KIWESE: “Are you guys bringing Lady Lazer Light?”
DAN: “Erica Sklenars is going to be in Beijing for three months on an artist residency!! So we’ll bring her along for the trip.”
The morning after the second Orchestra of Spheres show in Beijing, I awoke with a heavy hangover to find Erica passed out on the couch at my friend’s tiny flat in Beixinqiao, wrapped in her screen as a blanket and surrounded by noodles of projector cables and chargers. A Lady Lazer Light bomb had exploded in the lounge and ground zero was beautifully chaotic. This chick is crack up.
Despite being a fan of her work for years, I’d actually never met Erica Sklenars before she arrived in Beijing last September.
During my time with her in China, through all the madness, set-ups, pack downs, instant noodles, Jingjiu, overnight train rides, WeChat frenzies, gaffer tape, raves, laughs, cries and hangovers, she became a very dear friend, one who I have enormous respect and admiration for as an artist, improvisor, communicator and genuinely wonderful human being.
I am so pleased to finally feature her here on this humble blog.
KIWESE: Sup Sklen, how’s it going?
As Lady Lazer Light, you’ve been a staple visual collaborator in Wellington for many years. Can you tell us a bit about your current set up in Dunedin?
I’ve been living between Dunedin and Wellington a bit this year with various projects, but I’m technically based in beautiful Port Chalmers, Dunedin, living and making work in Chick’s Hotel.
What’s the deal with Chick’s Hotel at the mo?
They closed a couple of weeks ago, went out with a bang with a number of awesome farewell gigs, including Shifting Sands and The Clean sending us off on the final night.
I’ve been away since then, but word on the street says there is a killer recording studio developing downstairs…
You were based in Wellington for many years, how have you found the transition to Dunedin life? My only experience with the music scene on my trip there was a seedy late night karaoke bar, where I realised Seven Days by Craig David is actually really hard to sing.
Haha! I have only encountered YouTube karaoke down there… but may have heard something about such bars.
I’m finding it quite different, a bit more chill, a good place to reflect on my practice and on my high-energy, chaotic last few months of travel.
There are some really cool things happening there in the music scene, some awesome new and old bands, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to collaborate and perform. There is actually some REALLY great music happening there at the moment.
You’ve mentioned Élan vital before. Could you name some other acts you’re digging in Dunedin?
I collaborated with Repulsive Woman recently, she played alone outside an old Free Mason Lodge and the audience watched/peeped on her from inside through a camera obscura I constructed. She plays One Direction covers.
You were in Beijing for three months and really thrived in it. Do you have any favourite spots for music and art in the city?
Liquid Light Show at Temple Bar Beijing, which Erica participated in. Sept 2015.
Shocking Pinks DJ Set at Dada with visuals by Lady Lazer Light. Sept 2015.
Mos Iocos of Orchestra of Spheres with Lady Lazer Light. School Bar, Beijing, Sept 2015. Image / Live Beijing Music
What do you miss about China now that you are back in NZ?
I miss the food of course! I loved it all. I miss being able to order a bunch of different dishes – I’m terrible at making decisions on menus.
I miss always having an exciting new place to go! There’s one particular dish I would get that was kind of an omelette thing with sprouts and noodles, it was soo good for late breakfasts. And the shredded potato!! So good.
I miss the friendly faces around where I was living, going on adventures through different villages to find art supplies, taking several forms of public transport to go somewhere, the amazing friendly people I would meet that would extend so much help and kindness despite us not speaking the same language.
The Spheres tour was so bloody fab. Do you have a particularly standout gig?
Too hard to choose! I loved the BBQ party in Feijiacun because that was in the community I was living in.
I loved the NUART Festival in Chengdu and the after party at Zaoshanghao, so much fun! I loved every city and show for different reasons, I can’t pick a single fav. I really want to come back and I’m working on some plans, watch this space!
When can we expect to see the South Acid MiMi x Lady Lazer Light music video?
What would you say to other artists wanting to visit China?
Do it, it’s an awesome place to tour as a band and to make art.
Chur girl, you Sklegend!
Erica will be speaking in Wellington tonight and tomorrow:
P-LAB: LADY LAZER LIGHT
Time: 7:00pm | Wed 13 April 2016
Location: Pyramid Club
272 Taranaki Street, Wellington, New Zealand
For her P-LAB session, Erica will be delving into her world of projected visuals and speaking about her recent 3 month residency in Beijing on the Wellington Asia Residency Exchange.
The Pyramid Club is run by the Sound and Exploration Society.
International Connections: An artist residency forum
Time: 5.30pm – 7.30pm | Thu 14 April 2016
Location: Adam Auditorium, City Gallery
101 Wakefield St, Wellington, New Zealand
Hear internationally acclaimed visual artists speak about their practice and residency experiences in a panel discussion chaired by Courtney Johnston, director of The Dowse Art Museum. The artists – Marc Brandenburg, Etienne de France, Erica Sklenars and Sian Torrington – will share their work and their thoughts about the world versus Wellington.
Berlin-based Brandenburg is the current Goethe-Institut Artist in Resident at the Bolton Street Cottage; Etienne de France, from Paris, is the Massey University Artist in Resident staying at Te Whare Hera; and Erica Sklenars and Sian Torrington are both Wellington-based artists recently back from Asia.
From Wellington stoner country to Beijing glitch hop, 2015 was packed with awesome releases from both New Zealand and China. Here are fifteen Kiwese favourites!
Illustration by Ali Pang.
With Knees of Honey in Goodbye Canyon bySo Laid Back Country China
So Laid Back Country China (or 很放松乡村中国) is a four-piece band fronted by Harriet Ferry and Michael Keane, former members of beloved Wellington folk/country hooligans Big River Chain and John the Baptist.
Originally meant to be an EP, With Knees of Honey in Goodbye Canyon, is a slow-release trip into wide open country spaces, at once soothing and hair-raising in the sparse layering of instrumentation and vocals.
No Need For Another History byHiperson 《我不要别的历史》 海朋森
Rejoice!! Our long diet ofHiperson demos streamed off Youku was finally supplemented this year, with No Need For Another Historyreleased on Maybe Mars in April. Recorded by China’s post-punk overlord Yang Haisong, Hiperson have re-recorded well-loved tunes such as《他打定主意做一个游客》He Made Up His Mind to Be a Tourist and 《门》Entrance, alongsidenew material that reasserts their guitar-driven, sharp tongued sound.
Those distinctive stabbing staccato vocals from Chen Sijiang, alongside puns such as “这是通往剧院的大路!” yelled in tandem with guitarist Ji Yinan, in my opinion make Hiperson one of the most lyrically talented bands in China today. Check out the Kiwese interview with Hiperson earlier this year.
TANGO is a joy from start to finish – really tight songwriting and jangly pop melodies led by the band’s Anji Sami and Jonathan Toy. Nominated for Best Alternative Album at this year’s NZ Music Awards, lost out to UMO’s Multi-Love (also excellent).
China’s national football team is unlikely to score points anywhere, but Wuhan’s delightful indie-pop band Chinese Football are winners!
This year Chinese Football released both a self-titled EP and a self-titled full length album, the latter of which I am rating here. Sparkling TTNG-esque math rock riffs, endearing vocal harmonies and brightness. Forever destined to be compared to American Football, Chinese Football’s music would indeed be suited to cruising around the sunny Midwest.
Chinese Football play Chengdu’s Little Bar on 8 January and Chongqing’s NUTS on the 9th. Yay!
Aucklandite indie-emo-pop power duo Carb on Carb released their much anticipated self-titled album back in February, what a pearler! James and Nicole have been busy touring the USA this year, making a lot of new friends and forging their own American dreams.
Fresh release from the inimitable Howie Lee, just out this month on Alpha Pup. Beijing blazzzze – Mù Chè Shān Chū is packed with those East Asian samples, clicks and tweaks Lee has become known for. Featuring fresh takes on tracks Sinka and Shang from last year’s also excellent Eastside Sampler Series. Future kungfu swag.
Oh man. I fucking love Terror of the Deep. Their music makes me imagine walking up Riddiford Street with sunglasses on, blue skies, and a hop in my step. Flax and toi toi. Newtown. Space Epic has a much lusher, texture than TOTD’s previous spare and crunchy bass-guitar-drums sound, with the addition of Tom Watson on keyboard and trumpet. Picks up where Permanent Weekend left off, with a re-recording of ‘When the Planets Align.’
Recorded by OOS’s Dan Beban at Pyramid Club and mixed into the galaxies in 2015. A journey through space, to Neptune and beyond…
Demos on Douban by South Acid MiMi Dance Team
South Acid MiMi (Shishi, Weilin + Yixiao) are such rad bitches. Straight outta Kunming, this freaky disco punk trio is leading crowds to the dance floor. I saw one of their early shows in January when I was randomly in Kunming and it was the most refreshing thing I’d been to in ages. They sound like… Grimes? Iggy Pop? Karen O?
These bizarre, addictive beats from three keyboards, vocals, a laptop, LED light poi and various bottles of spirits. South Acid MiMi are gearing up to release an album with Ruby Eyes Records in Beijing next year.
Stay tuned for a Lady Lazer Light x Kiwese x South Acid MiMi production very soon!!
Mermaidens are Scrumpylicious incantation creators. Seed is a mean tune. Sounds like discordant fuzzy kelp scum, the three-piece creating a bubble of noise that scares off even those freaky fish with lightbulbs on their head. Look forward to more next year.
Stolen (pinyin: mìmì xíngdòng) tore shit up this year. I saw them play a countless number of times around the country, bursting with energy at every gig. After signing to Beijing’s new D-Force Records, they had the opportunity to professionally record in Taipei, producing a more refined collection of their excellent free demos.
Dark, chilling, insanely danceable – with Loop and a huge national tour under their belt this year, Stolen have raised the bar even higher. While one hears Joy Division or Kraftwerk when listening to Stolen, their newer material is more electronic beat based, scatty tech rhythms. The boys have been writing new material up in the mountains, so anticipate more from them next year!
Wellington woodland dream folk. Womb is the solo project of Charlotte Forrester, womb companion of Haz Forrester, who she used to play with in Athuzela Brown. This is really gorgeous music. The echoey vocals remind me a lot of Grouper, while the sparse guitar phrasing in ‘Sounds of Our Voices’ definitely brings Electrelane to mind. Sonorous Circle label mate Sean Kelly mixed and mastered these five lovely tracks with some Seth Frightening magic.
Fatshady is the biggest rapper in Chengdu. He entered the hip-hop lexicon several years ago with his track 《明天不上班》, empowering audiences to bunk off work in style. He raps completely in Chengduhua, garnering immediate appeal by opposing the bland, standardised Mandarin of TV, radio, school, officialdom…
While the beats are pretty simple (as if ‘shab shabba Ranks’ could come in at any moment), the rapping is second to none. While I can only understand half of his lyrics, his music speaks to my friends unlike any other artist I’ve seen – because he is using their language. There is no one else doing it quite like Fatshady. Out on C.D.C.
A. Cushion Plant and B. Gold in Quartz by Team Cat Food
(Auckland via Wellington, NZ)
February saw a Team Cat Food double release. As with everything these guys have released, I love it. Mellow and vibey electronic textures and beats, with i.ryoko and Seth Frightening featuring on each side. Churrrr.
A Million Farewells by Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes
Well, this is epic. Shanghai’s famously un-Googleable Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes have released this noisy emotional outpouring on Genjing Records. Former So So Modern drummer Daniel Nagels joins ‘Tom’ – Xiao Zhong of Pairs, ‘Katie’ – Sharon Cee-Q with her dreamy vocals, and Samuel Walsh on bass.
‘My Life is Over’ will have your ears ringing, while other more dream pop/shoegaze tracks act as a welcome counterpoint. Beautiful stuff. Vinyl release through Genjing and Tenzenmen, or you can stream it on Bandcamp.
Elixir is certainly the most mature and cohesive Totems release to date, with nine tracks that flow seamlessly from start to finish. Jungle/drum & bass/echoes of his old trap sound that are equally suited to both chilling and raving. Released in December with Cosmic Compositions, Elixir has already had several plays at Kiwese HQ, also known as my lounge. Chur chur!
With only one kiwi member, UMO are arguably not even a NZ act. But they get nominated at the NZ Music Awards and also get funding from NZ On Air so whatever. Multi-Love is the follow up to 2013’s II and it is just really fcking awesome!! More groovy and melodic than their previous two albums, with the addition of a keyboardist/back up vocalist.
Favourite Song 2015: Can’t Keep Checking My Phone
…Where it at?
Mirror in Mirror by Skip Skip Ben Ben
(Taipei / Beijing)
Ben Ben’s new album has been released in Taiwan on Re:Public Records, and I’m eagerly/impatiently waiting for it to come out in the Mainland on Maybe Mars… Check out the preview below. NEED.
Many of these artists have released their music on Bandcamp for the criminally low price of ZERO DOLLARS. Koha where you can! Support independent music!
What makes a ‘good show’? The artist? The venue? The crowd? Here is a list of ten shows in chronological order that left an impression on Kiwese this year.
“Music, in performance, is a type of sculpture. The air in the performance is sculpted into something.” – Frank Zappa
To me, live music is a symbiotic relationship between performer and audience, they need each other to exist. There is an unfiltered bond between the artist and the crowd at every show, an unrepeatable experience in time and space. The shows I tend to enjoy most are the ones where the crowd is engaging somehow with the performers, whether through dancing or cheering or stage invading – letting the performers know they are not alone.
With the increase of computers in music production today, old expectations of live music have shifted to accommodate these new digital elements. While some critics believe computers detract from a live show, artists are creating and embracing interesting new ways to perform with digital technology. In China, going out to a gig in 2015 no longer means bass-drums-guitar, but rather something that echoes the digital world we live in.
South Acid MiMi Dance Team @MAO Livehouse Kunming 南方酸性咪咪领舞队在昆明MAO Livehouse
I stumbled into a South Acid MiMi show in Kunming in January and never looked back. Officially indoctrinated into the girl cult of face masks, weird music, freaky dancing and lots of whiskey. Very stoked to have been able to collaborate with them and Lady Lazer Light in October. This early MiMi show was filled with lots of experimental instruments and props, which have since been refined into three keyboards, a laptop and percussion.
Weilin + Shishi
2015.04.17 Noise Temple @ Little Bar Chengdu 黄金＋绵羊在小酒馆
Noise Temple is hypnotic, digital, dark – the syncing together of VJ Mian’s visual projections and Huang Jin’s razor sharp drumming abilities makes for a unique pulsating of the senses. This show featured contemporary dancers (thought I’d see pigs fly at Little Bar first) and vocal/instrumental cameos from various musicians. Unfortunately, Huang Jin has since moved to Beijing to join Re-TROS so Noise Temple no longer play with the blessed regularity we had gotten used to in Chengdu.
Video below is from another show at Morning Bar in April.
2015.04.25 Aus-atmen @ Xiwo, Chengdu Luna, Cvalda, Hiroshi, Xiang, Su
New techno/minimal/ambient music label Atmen had their debut party in an empty swimming pool in the leafy outskirts of Flower Town. Featuring Cvalda, Hiroshi, Xiang and Su, playing to the early morning. Enough said.
2015.06.26 – 2015.06.28 Neverland Electro Music Festival @ Wulong Fairy Mountain, Chongqing
山谷露营电子音乐节 仙女山 武隆 重庆
Two days, two nights, two stages – Neverland 2015 returned to the misty mountains outside of Chongqing, following their first festival in 2013. Neverland is a collaboration between NUTS and Morning Bar, attracting fans and friends from Chengdu, Chongqing and surrounding regions such as Guizhou. Camping festivals are few and far between in China, and Neverland beautifully fills the need.
The location is sublime – rolling green hills, white flowing mist and cloudless skies. The main stage saw DJs from around the region bring everything from swing to techno, while the psytrance community stayed entranced with their own 24/7 party at the stage on the flat. A very low key and awesome festival, with only a couple of hundred punters and no security. Amped for next year!
2015.07.03 Hiperson @ Little Bar Space Chengdu
When Hiperson set out to tour ‘No Need For Another History’ 《我不要别的历史》, they returned as a different band. Several hundred friends and fans turned up to the new big Little Bar (the new/old/big Little Bar thing is gonna get confusing) to welcome them home, and they sure as hell delivered. Kiwese became the first person to ever stage dive at a Hiperson show – life achievement unlocked.
Chen Sijiang, who’d shaved all her hair off in Shenzhen, completely commanded the stage with guitarists Ji Yinan and Liu Zetong thrashing about in the wings and Tao Ge bopping with conviction on bass. When the band went silent for Sijiang’s monologue and the spotlight lit her shaved head and wide-open eyes, you could hear a pin drop as the entire crowd sat in the palm of her hand. A mighty performance from one of Chengdu’s favourite bands.
2015.08.01 Stolen ‘Loop’ Album Release Show @ U37 w/ Dead J and Noise Temple 秘密行动《循环》专辑首发演出
Chengdu turned out in droves for Stolen’s album release show at an empty warehouse in U37. Perhaps some of us were a little TOO excited – I almost broke my ankle in the mosh pit and had to be carried husband-bride style to a taxi by my flatmate. Nevertheless, an epic show from a band that has become one of the most talked about acts in China this year. That synth-bass break in A Glossy Flirt has become my official pogo beer shower anthem.
Managed to catch Stolen on tour in Guangzhou and Beijing as well, but the energy at this album release home show was unparalleled.
2015.09.18 Shocking Pinks @ School Bar Beijing
Kiwese caught an overnight train from Chengdu to catch Shocking Pinks first show in China at the notorious School Bar in Beijing. The formula of Ash Smith (bass) and Cory Champion (drums) that was concocted last year at Puppies is still solid, as Nick Harte led them through a selection of songs from his previous albums to a responsive and dance-ready crowd. Check out the interview at live performance of ‘Smoke Screen’ in the video below.
2015.09.29 – 2015.10.11 Orchestra of Spheres + Lady Lazer Light China Tour
Dreams do come true! This year Orchestra of Spheres (Xīngjī Yuètuán) came to China, YEAH HARD! In a twist of seriously awesome timing, their hometown partner-in-crime Lady Lazer Light was in Beijing on an art residency and brought her cosmic visions on tour! Crowds in Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Kunming, Dali, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Wuhan were given their first taste of OOS magic.
In addition to OOS, special side-shows included Cave Circles + Globular Synthesis at Brothers BBQ in Feijiacun, The Niubis in Chongqing and a Cave Circles + Su live techno set at Morning Bar Chengdu.
Big love to Baba Rossa, Mos Ioccos, EtonalE, Woild Boin and Lady Lazer Light putting their faith in Kiwese and being incredibly rad people.
Photo by Will Griffith.
Poster by Hannah Salmon.
Photo by Will Griffith.
Photo from Full Label Guangzhou.
Photo by American Apparel.
2015.12.17 múm @ Little Bar Space Chengdu
A band that uses cello and melodica – I was prepared to hate this. Pronounced miooyyuujm, Icelandic atmospheric-music-to-have-sex-to band múm gave us a spiritual show of delicate vocal harmonies and careful layering of instruments, alongside slow panning lights and dramatic hisses of fog – the singer’s pixie sigh of ‘xie xie‘ the only thing that would break the audience out of their sonic incantations. At times I felt like I was sinking into the ground, no one was moving. My favourite part was when the singer started to theatrically rip her own head off – see video below.
2015.12.18 – 2015.12.19 Ein-atmen @ Chengdu Air Raid Shelter 在成都金里西路放空
And finally, to round off the year, the crew from Atmen and Morning Bar hosted a two-night techno party in an air raid bunker in downtown Chengdu. Music wise – the first night featured Tanzman, Su, Ewan and Haozi and the second night continued with Xiaolong, Xiang and Hiroshi. Visual artists projected their works throughout the shelter all weekend. The air raid shelter is like nothing I’ve seen before – long corridors of old concrete rooms and rusty steel fittings.
With Chengdu undergoing so much construction and change, it was beautiful to be part of something so fresh and innovative in the underground chasms of the city. This is what it is all about – people coming together to build events in new spaces.
Read the Zaomengshe interview with Su and Xiang here.
Want to find out about events before they happen? Many of these events sold pre-sale tickets on Zaomengshe, download the app to keep in the loop! www.zaomengshe.com
Orchestra of Spheres are one of the most exciting and unpredictable live acts in New Zealand. With DIY homemade instruments and wide-ranging worldwide influences, the group have spellbound and tripped out audiences from Wainuiomata to Reykjavík, and developed an international cult-like following.
Like celestial sponges, they draw on influences far and wide: the hypnotic beats of Angolan kuduro, the chimes of gamelan music, free jazz and dance music. Their sound has been described as psychedelic disco and ancient future funk and the band have been compared to artists as diverse as Fela Kuti, Sun Ra, Can and Drexiciya.
Orchestra of Spheres are coming to tour China for the first time, with very special guest Lady Lazer Light. They only come out this way once every 2,000,000 years, so don’t miss out your chance to see them live!
Kiwese proudly presents...
ORCHESTRA OF SPHERES w/ LADY LAZER LIGHT
29 Sept – Beijing, School, w/ Baxian Fandian
30 Sept – Beijing, Temple 坛酒吧
3 Oct – Chengdu, Shao Cheng Fest 少城有明堂艺术节
4 Oct – Chongqing, Nuts 坚果 Livehouse
5 Oct – Kunming, MAO Livehouse, w/ South Acid MiMi Dance Team
7 Oct – Dali, Jielu Music Space 结庐音乐空间
9 Oct – Shenzhen, OCT-LOFT Jazz Fest 国际爵士音乐节
10 Oct – Guangzhou, 191 Space, w/ Full Label
11 Oct – Wuhan, VOX Hankou 汉口
More support acts TBA.
“Part Sun Ra otherworldliness, part Sublime Frequencies and part ESG… Orchestra of Spheres blew us away…” – Dan Snaith, Caribou
“Orchestra of Spheres must be the most out-of-this-world band in music today… sounds like they came from another planet, where nonstop dance and remarkable melodies are the norm” – Brian Shimkovitz, Awesome Tapes from Africa
Kunming. The south-western provincial capital of Yunnan, China’s very own Shangri-La of tourism. Images that spring to mind are probably not whiskey-swigging, tattoo-covered electro-pop divas.
Having far exceeded one’s tolerance levels for crap pop music and ‘Xiao Ping Guo,’ Kiwese was excited to check out local bands Strange Days and South Acid MiMi Dance Team at the latest addition to the MAO Livehouse empire.
Generally considered as a stopover for travellers roaming through the backpackers’ paradise of Yunnan, Kunming is often overlooked for the more colourful, natural beauty of surrounding areas. However, at this bizarre double-bill at MAO Livehouse on a Friday night, I found there to be a community of music lovers and locals who are building a new scene for themselves to play in, away from the tourism developments that permeate much of the province.
MAO Livehouse is a household name on the Chinese live music circuit, with venues in Beijing and Shanghai hosting local and international acts of big and small. The Shanghai branch has begun taking the name out west, with MAO Kunming opening just last month and MAO Chongqing set to open early this year. MAO Kunming has replaced the previous tenants Pro Livehouse 坡现场 and according to the bar, are the only dedicated livehouse in town.
Wisps of Radiohead and cigarette smoke hung in the air, above punters who all appeared to be provisioned with a lit cigarette in one hand and a photo-ready cellphone in the other.
Local Kunminger, Yuan Luo, 25yo, who introduced herself as Eva, works behind the drinks token booth as a volunteer whenever there are gigs on. “Other bars just invite bands to play as background music every night, people come to buy drinks and chat with friends. But here, it is all about music.”
“Young people are smarter than before, now they know what they want and they know how to avoid what they don’t like,” she continues, “five or ten years ago, young people just followed popular culture, but they didn’t know whether they actually liked it or not.”
“At MAO we welcome all types of music, as long as the musicians are passionate about it,” she says, while dishing out drink tickets to a trio of pierced and tattooed patrons, “but we do notice that not everyone likes all styles, like country or mín yáo 民谣 (folk)… so maybe we lose numbers for those events. They can have beautiful lyrics, but people might not give it a chance.”
“Kunming is a travelling city and we have many guests coming through every year. So I think it is much easier for Kunming people to open their minds and learn about new things.”
I mention interviewing the local folk-rock band Shanren 山人, who moved from Kunming to Beijing several years ago. For many Chinese bands, Beijing and Shanghai seem to be considered the L.A. and New York of China, where bigger audiences and more established scenes can be found. “Yeah, [Beijing and Shanghai] are more developed and we are developing,” she says, “ten years ago almost all the local bands went there to try make it big. But now it is different, and a lot of bands are coming back.”
First up on the ‘Lets Rock with Different Ways’ bill was a popular local band calledStrange Days奇怪的日子, who take their name from the Doors’ 1967 album. The band played an hour of plodding instrumental riffs, including one or two songs with vocals that got the crowd moving and singing along.
The set ended with the frontman shoving his guitar through the lighting rig and letting it loose in the crowd.
“It’s not just about selling beers and tickets. It is our mission to introduce people to new music.”
South Acid MiMi Dance Team南方酸性咪咪领舞队 took the stage next, in what was possibly the most bizarre live show I’ve seen in China so far (Chengdu’s Chao Ren Tian Tian 超人田田 as a close contender).
CSS/Grimes styled beats emerged from the stage, the crowd moved in and the smuggled Soju came out…
The group is formed of three members Weilin, Jin and Zzuiii, identifiable by their lunar/aquatic themed homemade masks and childlike vocals, which teamed with preset electronic beats and K-Pop style sychronised dance moves saw them careen through songs such as ‘ARE U FEELING SICK?’ and ‘NUNUDUGU.’ The stage was ultimately invaded by a throng of local dance fiends and members of Strange Days. A very drunk Finnish man proclaimed his love for the group at the end of the set, but an encore was not granted.
So there are some pretty unique and original things going down in the Kunming music scene, with a growing community of people who are supporting it. But what of the MAO brand’s expansion mission out west? Are all venues in the region destined to be stock standard copies of the successful prototypes on the East Coast?
Greater professionalism appears to be a key goal of MAO Kunming. I couldn’t help but think MAO Kunming could do with some ground rules for photographers – the entire stage was teeming with them and they impeded the bands and the audience from viewing the stage. In saying that, I guess the venue provides a platform for everyone to practice their stuff. “We are still learning and are going to study at MAO Shanghai,” Yuan Luo says, “they have the same model and they want to make it better, like a more professional chain store.”
“It’s the same brand. Now they are getting more fēndiàn 分店 (branches)…” she offers, struggling for the word in English, thinking for a moment, “it’s like WalMart,” she concluded.
Short of the independent music scene being quashed in a South Park WalMart type scenario, it seems MAO Kunming’s revitalisation of a dirty old venue will pave the way for more livehouses to open in the city.
“We are only one venue and we cannot hold down that many bands,” Yuan Luo says with genuine enthusiasm, “big market, more competition, better concerts and better bands!”
Thanks Yuan Luo aka Eva for her insight! And to Strange Days and South Acid MiMi Dance Team for putting on a great show.